If anyone was holding out hope that the upcoming stimulus bill would include a plan to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 minimum wage, well, it’s time to face facts: On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that it will remain DOA in the Senate.
After the provision—to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025—passed the majority Democratic House without issue, it was immediately challenged by the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough when it hit the Senate. MacDonough believes that the minimum wage hike doesn’t abide by the budgetary guidelines by which the Democrats intend to pass the stimulus package through the Senate: Budget reconciliation, which allows a piece of legislation to pass with a simple majority vote instead of the usual 60, a useful tactic in a 50-50 split Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaking vote. While MacDonough, a staffer, could technically be canned, the Biden administration isn’t interested.
“That’s not an action we intend to take,” Psaki said, noting that even sacking MacDonough would require 50 votes. Given the fact that Democrats were struggling to get Senators Manchin and Sinema on board with the minimum wage hike in the first place, the very thought of getting rid of MacDonough is off the table.
That doesn’t mean that a Democrat-controlled Senate won’t take on a $15 minimum wage increase again. When? Great question. Unfortunately, nobody knows.
“We don’t have a clear answer on what that looks like at this point,” Psaki said. “It just remains a commitment and something he will use his political capital to get done.”
There are a lot of things to celebrate in the upcoming stimulus package: billions of dollars allocated to schools, renewed rental relief programs, and a new round of stimulus checks. But even if Democrats keep the fight for $15 in their back pocket, it’s still too easy to envision a scenario in which it’s not utilized, or watered down further. As long as there are Senate Democrats who don’t believe people should be paid a living wage, we’ll be stuck wasting time fighting the Joe Manchins of the world instead of helping people provide for their families.